Angel's over

The remaining Buffyverse show Angel went out with a reasonable modicum of class and style… which was purely a product of the final season. Having recently watched most of the run in order, I can tell you that this show was awkward for its first four seasons, never settling in thematically, and with a clunky sense of darkness that made it just dreary to watch. With the completion of Buffy last year, it felt like the A-team came over to this show and made it, if not as good as Buffy at its best, at least as good as Buffy at its most typical, which is a rather good show indeed.

A clear sign that the show was lost: of the four original characters, only one remained at the beginning of the fourth season.

Unlike some endings which leave people remembering the show as less than it was, this leaves people remembering it as better than it was. And that ain’t such a bad thing.

Published in: on May 19, 2004 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fading Away

Friends went away with largely the ending it had to have, and which came as no surprise to anyone. The final season was produced with few episodes and made quite quickly, which seemed to show at times; there were a lot of bits that never quite worked, things which might have been polished or edited out with more time. But it did what it did, and now it’s done. It leaves a small hole in my viewing plans.

Frasier leaves a larger hole, even though it went through a season where I decided I didn’t have to watch it. The last season returned it to its madcap roots, and even though it had some missteps (notably, that odd dance where Maris being accused of murder was introduced and then suddenly sloughed off, as if they thought better of it), it was worthwhile. There have been rumors that the studio has been shopping around a new series built around the Frasier character; it seems to me hard to build a very different concept around him, and they’ve done what they needed to do with the farce. (The obvious spin-off to me was always to give Roz, sexually active single mom, her own show. If that should come to pass, I hope they don’t just pick up where they left it on Frasier, with (SPOILER ALERT FOR FOLKS WHO HAVE THE FRASIER FINALE TAPES) Roz becoming the boss at the station. My main concern there is that puts her as boss over Gil and Noel, and creators might feel the need to keep those character. Noel was a one-note character that never served the Frasier series well; Frasier was much better when it skewered the pretensions of the high’n’mighty, and Noel gave them a stereotype to legitimize the snobbish attitude.)

This week’s Saturday Night Live was Jimmy Fallon’s last. He had become the clear leader of the pack, so it will be interesting to see how the cast shakes out next year. Of course, it was probably the last episode for a couple other folks who may just not know it yet. One potential disappearance from the scene is announcer Don Pardo; I’m suspicious of that only because they showed him on camera this episode, and I cannot recall them doing that throughout the entire run of the series. Don’s 86 at this point; if he wants to take some time off, he’s earned it.

But dang, I hope there’s some good stuff next season. There was some good stuff this season, but most of it is gone (he says, keeping his fingers crossed for the survivial of Arrested Development.) Of this season’s new network shows, I’m pretty much down to watching Arrested Development, Two And A Half Men, and Las Vegas (and that without much excuse.) Given that we’re losing/lost preexisting shows Frasier, Friends, Angel (admittedly, this was off the “watch” list until late last season), Boomtown, Life With Bonnie (rumored, at this point, but it’s off of the “watch” list anyway)… there are many holes in the schedule now.

Published in: on May 18, 2004 at 9:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Tony Randall

CNN.com is announcing that Tony Randall has passed away.

A loss, indeed. Randall had long been someone who could bring something special to a project, a certain energy that kept with him well into his advancing years. He had an air of gleeful precision that made it unsurprising that he was cast in the TV version of The Odd Couple.

I remember walking out of Gremlins II, a sequel to a fun movie, thinking “the only person who seemed to be having fun in this film was Tony Randall”. That elevated the scenes he was in — well, not in, he provided the voice for a gremlin — enough to show how lackluster the rest of it was.

The last thing I saw him in was the film Down with Love., a mock Rock Hudson/Doris Day flick. Watching the trailers, I thought “this could be good, this could be bad”, until I saw that they had gotten Randall for a part, and thus proved to me that They Knew What They Were Doing. He was too old at that point to play the “Tony Randall” part (although those shoes were quite ably filled by David Hyde Pierce), but his presence was felt there, and elsewhere.

Next time you’re flipping around the dial (not that we actually have dials on our TVs anymore, nor anything to flip) and you see a moment of film with a young Tony Randall on it, stop and watch. Odds are, you’re in for a little treat.

Published in: on May 18, 2004 at 8:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Writer's strike

There is a strong possibility of a strike by the Writers Guild in the coming days. A strike of any reasonable length would have an impact on this fall’s TV season, as the networks would scramble to fill their hours with non-traditional material. It would be hard to do most existing series without guild writers. In past strikes, we’ve sometimes seen series remakes, actually building a new series of Mission: Impossible (to use one example) by basically reshooting scripts from the original series.

But with the current trends in TV, what this is really likely to mean is: more reality TV.

While reality TV shows do have conceptualizers who could be viewed as writers, these folks are not expected to be in the Guild (in fact, that’s part of the current negotiations, as the Guild thinks they should be.) So we’re bound to see that many more home makeover shows, more singing competitions, and more guys tricked into believing that the millionaire they married in Massachusettes is really a woman…. all at the expense of time for sitcoms and dramas.

Who else is likely winners? Well, I’m no expert, but it seems to me that Drew Carey could be the guy to really make out here. Currently, ABC plans to dump the remaining Drew Carey Show episodes two per week during the summer, but the thought of holding back and having the one continuing professional sitcom during the fall must be tempting. And while I expect that Whose Line Is It Anyway? actually used writers for Carey’s quips and perhaps for figuring out which games to play, it should be both effective and cheap to do it as an improv show. (And with Wayne Brady’s talk show cancelled, he should be available again for it.)

The longer lead time for animated shows means that new episodes of The Simpsons have already been written, as have episodes of the computer-animated Father of the Pride. They’ll get more attention, and presumably Fox won’t wait until after the baseball season is over to find someplace to air Simpsons (perhaps even running the Halloween special by Halloween this year, dare we hope?) But then Fox has been moving away from the fixed season calendar, which may help them as well. Basic cable series that could be run on network might gain a foot up, too — I’d look for another set of ABC reruns of Monk, and perhaps Touching Evil and a few other such series (although Nip/Tuck and The Shield may both be too intense for the networks.)

None of this bodes well for the sitcom in general, which is already on shakey legs in general. With various long-run staples of the form already coming to a close, the lack of anything new to fill the void may hit hard.

Published in: on May 11, 2004 at 9:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Alan King

Alan King passed away the other day.

King was a stand-up comedian who exuded confidence… which is not necessarily a good thing for a stand-up. Having confidence, yes. Exuding it? eh.

But I really didn’t get to know his key work; by the time I was paying attention, he wasn’t so big in actually doing comedy. He was a pretty good guy to talk about comedy.

I appeared on TV with him once. Of course, that makes it sound like some sort of equal partnership, but of course that is not the case. He was shooting one of his “College of Comedy” specials at CalTech, and they wanted an opening bit with Alan in a CalTech laboratory. They needed some folks there for atmosphere. Now, I was never an actual Techer, but at the time I was part of the larger community (by then, I had broken up with the CalTech doctoral student I had been living with and had started going out with the CalTech doctoral student I would later marry. Nat’s plan: always hook up with well-educated gals, it’ll give you someone worth leeching off later!) Sp I volunteered to be an on-screen lab guy in the background of the shot.

Everything got set up, King came in and gave his smoothly-delivered, not very fun intro, and then that night he hosted the entertaining and insightful College Of Comedy session.

Oh, I suppose there is some insightful comment I could make. But I’m sleepy. Just rambling. Ignore me.

Published in: on May 10, 2004 at 10:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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